I don’t know if anyone actually eavesdrops on my critique group when we meet in a crowded restaurant, but they might be confused by the wanderings our conversations take. After all, we can read any sort of genre – realistic, historic, or science fiction. And we cover stories for all ages; we read everything from picture books for the very young to sweet and funny middle grade to hot and steamy YA romance. (We almost always want hotter and steamier, which is interesting to overhear in itself.) Almost always, important questions are raised and discussed. For instance, do aliens need pants? And where does your tail go when you are wearing a space suit?
A point of discussion at our last meeting was underwear.
Underwear reveals character.
Besides the inherent humor of underwear in certain situations, the fact is: Underwear choice makes a difference. Is it chafing? Riding up? Too tight? Too loose? This could change one’s mood, even if no one else sees it.
The first time for wearing a cup is a funny bow-legged sight on the little league baseball field. I loved the time a young player rapped on himself and yelled across the field, “I got my cup on, Mom!”
I’m still thankful for the mother who warned me that my son needed to learn to wear boxers prior to middle school so he wouldn’t have to change in the locker room wearing tighty-whities, a certain social curse. But be sure have a button on the fly of those boxers! I know of at least one boy who wore both the brief that made him feel secure and the boxer that was cool. That’s a lot of laundry…
Teen girls must have the worst underwear peer pressure. Whether it’s at a sleepover, during PE, or changing for a sport – they see what others are wearing, and judgments are made. For the record, it’s my experience (as a mother and Girl Scout leader) that girls feel pressure to go skimpy and lacy, but they are saved by also wearing spankies – the spandex cover-ups worn beneath those short cheer skirts or loose exercise shorts.
Romance novels use sexy lingerie on plain and innocent heroines to hint at secret passion yet to be released.
I still remember cringing for Priscilla when I read about her underwear during a love-making scene in Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. “Her bra was rust-stained and more than a size too big.” And, “There was a run in her nylon panties.” But she is saved by, “Neither of them seemed to notice.” Her underwear choice was spot-on realistic for the poor scientist-waitress distracted by much more important issues.
Think about your characters’ underwear. The choice reveals comfort, appearance, intent and expectations as well as financial standing. Even if it’s never mentioned, you’ll know your character that much better.
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK